Golden Shears kicks off in Masterton's War Memorial Stadium today and the TAB has responded to public demand by agreeing to take bets on who will qualify for the Golden Shears Open final on Saturday.
While the TAB has been operating books on who will win the title each year for more than a decade, it's the first time there's been an option on who will make the top six, said TAB shearing bookmaker Kieran McAnulty.
The move is seen as an indication that the event is wider open than it has been for some years, despite the general continued domination of major competitions by only a small number of shearers, including four who between them have won 22 of the Golden Shears Open finals in the last 24 years.
Despite the presence of David Fagan (16 wins and 26 finals in 29 years), John Kirkpatrick (four wins), 2006 victor Dion King and 2010 winner Cam Ferguson, the most-favoured shearer to reach the final, and to win, is Rowland Smith, who has shorn in just two Golden Shears Open finals for second in 2011 and third last year, but who has won eight finals around the country since mid-January.
He was quoted yesterday at $1.10, Kirkpatrick was at $1.12 with a history of shearing in 15 of the last 16 Golden Shears Open finals, and Fagan was at $1.17. Ferguson, King, Invercargill shearer Nathan Stratford and World champion Gavin Mutch were also quoted under $2.
The shortest-priced shearers who have never reached the final were Feilding shearer Murray Henderson and Te Kuiti's Mark Grainger.
The TAB will be running 11 options on events at the Golden Shears which start tomorrow and end on Saturday.
Already also open are six other options on the Open shearing final, including the winner, top-three placings, and four head-to-head options. There is also winner and top-three betting on the PGG Wrightson Nation Circuit final. New Zealand has been made favourite to regain some mana in a bi-annual trans-Tasman shearing test, and betting is expected to open late today on the winner of Saturday night's Open woolhandling final.
More than 300 competitors will compete in the annual championships, comprising about 20 invents, including multiple Golden Shears titles in shearing, woolhandling and woolpressing, a Triathlon for competitors entering all three disciplines and the PGG Wrightson national all-breeds championship.